So many times we think of sanctuary as the sacred space in the church building where we come to worship. As I reflect upon all my years within the walls of a Sanctuary in churches across Arkansas and North Texas, they have all been a place of refuge and safe space. Safe space for me to kneel, worship, and pray asking for God to use me as an instrument of love and peace. The sanctuary has been a safe space to come, share my hurts and pains, and look for answers, receive unconditional love and acceptance, and be welcomed with hugs and smiles.
By definition, sanctuary is “a place of refuge or safety.”
But, does it have to be in a church or a building?
My experiences in youth ministry both as youth and an adult leader, challenged my narrow understanding of Sanctuary. Through retreats, Mission and camping trips, I found that sanctuary is not a building, but where people of faith gather and create space providing refuge and safety: on a mountain top, river bank, or even around a campfire.
This isn’t a new idea. In the Old Testament, where God’s people experienced refuge and safety, they would build an altar. They would mark that outdoor space as a place of worship and to let others know they had experienced God in that exact place.
In 2020, Aldersgate and churches all over the world have been challenged to deepen our understanding of Sanctuary. Yes, our physical building has been empty or sparsely filled, but we have worshiped virtually in our new sanctuaries. As our homes have become the literal places of refuge and safety from the CoronaVirus.
Think for a minute… Has your home become a sanctuary? Have you found refuge and safety?
Some of you have built small altar spaces, lit candles and gathered around table or on couches each week, in a safe space, worshiping God, sharing your prayers, your pains, your hurts, and your joys by offering them up via the chat on Facebook live.
As we look hopefully into 2021, God is calling us to be Courageous and to deepen our understanding of how we can live boldly in these uncertain times and reimagine what “church” looks like in the years ahead.
As a church, we went from 2 sanctuaries (The Main and Fellowship Hall) on our campus, to literally a hundred sanctuaries scattered across our community and other states.
Thinking of your house or really anywhere other than church building as sanctuary might be difficult. I am going to challenge you to pray, wonder, ask questions with God, and imagine how God is already at work in your house. And if you haven’t built an altar space, will you? Giving thanks for how God is in your space and how God’s presence is real for you and your family.
I also want to invite you to be part of our Lenten Journey (6 weeks leading up to Easter) beginning on Ash Wednesday, February 17th. We have some burlap with a cross painted on it that we would like for you to add to or build into your altar. If you are able to come pick it up from the church, please email email@example.com and let us know you are coming by. We will be mailing to all of our out-of-state church members and those who tell us they aren’t able to come by.
Join us online, via podcast, or in person (weather permitting) for Lent 2021 as we seek to grow closer to God, recognizing where God is already at work and finding ways to join with God in that work.
I can’t wait… I can’t wait to see how God is going to be at work this Lenten Season. I hope you will get excited and join us for this exciting and challenging new series as we journey to Easter.